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Minor League round up, 8/3: Reggie Crawford and Jose Rengel excel on the mound

Yesterday’s action on the Giants farm.

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Reggie Crawford in a Giants warm-up
LHP Reggie Crawford struck out 3 batters in 2 innings for High-A Eugene
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

All eight of the San Francisco Giants Minor League Baseball affiliates were in action on Thursday, so let’s waste no time and jump right in.

Link to the 2023 McCovey Chronicles Community Prospect List (CPL)

All listed positions are the positions played in that game.

AAA Sacramento (45-59)

Sacramento River Cats lost to the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) 5-1
Box score

A 5th straight loss for the River Cats, and this was an ugly one.

There was an exciting development on the mound, as LHP Juan Sanchez made his AAA debut. A 22 year old who has emerged as a prime Rule 5 candidate, Sanchez had a lovely season in AA and is now off to see how his stuff plays in the PCL. So far, so good, as he pitched 2 scoreless innings with just 1 hit allowed, and struck out 2 batters.

Always great to see players debut at new levels, but especially great when they perform well. And that’s doubly true when it’s a pitcher going to AAA and not walking someone!

A pretty decent relief outing for LHP Nick Swiney (No. 26 CPL), who pitched 3 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit and 2 walks, and striking out 2. Like nearly all River Cats pitchers, Swiney is struggling with walks (he’s issued 18 of them in 29 innings), but fun to see him pitch 3 innings, which he hadn’t done since April.

The offense got 1-hit, which is never a good thing. And the offense is also completely overflowing with players right now — with Marco Luciano and Brett Wisely getting optioned, Thairo Estrada and Luis González on rehab assignments, Mark Mathias entering the system, and Wade Meckler getting promoted, there simply aren’t enough at-bats to go around.

The result was that right fielder Heliot Ramos (No. 12 CPL), who is a credible MLB depth option right now, left the game early despite getting the team’s only hit (he finished 1-2 with a walk), so that they could find an at-bat for pinch-hitter Wade Meckler (No. 42 CPL), playing in just his 3rd game at the level. And all that while Joey Bart and Will Wilson (No. 21 CPL) didn’t play.

Second baseman Thairo Estrada hit 0-4 with 2 strikeouts in his 3rd rehab game, and performance doesn’t really matter. He looks healthy and might re-join the Giants tomorrow, thank goodness (which won’t help the River Cats roster crunch much, since it likely means the return of Casey Schmitt or Isan Díaz). Left fielder Luis González hit 0-3 with a walk, and is 5-25 with 2 doubles, 6 walks, and 5 strikeouts since returning to Sacramento. His 20-day rehab stint will end on Sunday, which will put the Giants in a tricky position: he’ll have to be added back to the 40-man roster and he doesn’t have any options. Which means the Giants will need to both clear a spot on the 40-man and the active roster for him, or they’ll have to part ways with him. As The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly pointed out, González being the player to be named later in the A.J. Pollock trade would make a lot of sense.

Shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 2 CPL) returned to his home position after trying out second base on Wednesday, but he had a tough day at the office, hitting 0-4 with 3 strikeouts.

AA Richmond (51-48)

Richmond Flying Squirrels lost to the Altoona Curve (Pirates) 6-0
Box score

Funny start to the series. After 3 games the Flying Squirrels have been shut out twice ... but they shut out the Curve in the game between. Go figure.

Needless to say, the offense was bad, but 2 players were good. Left fielder Hayden Cantrelle reached base in all 4 of his plate appearances, hitting 2 singles and drawing 2 walks. Cantrelle doesn’t have a ton of power, and truthfully hasn’t been hitting for average, as he sits at just .216 (his .278 BABIP is 70th out of 98 Eastern League hitters with at least 200 plate appearances). But my goodness the dude can draw walks: his 19.8% walk rate is 2nd out of those 98 hitters, and is tops among all full-season Giants prospects with at least 100 plate appearances. He also has just a 20.3% strikeout rate.

Also a really good game for right fielder Victor Bericoto, who hit 2-3 with a double and a hit by pitch. Bericoto opened tons of eyes with his amazing offense in High-A this year, but has been struggling since a recent promotion. This was his second straight multi-hit game with an extra-base hit, so hopefully he’s figuring it out. He’s only 15 games into his time in AA, after all. He also made an absurd catch which, to be fair, was more impressive than it would have been had he taken a better route, but is still so cool.

A nice start for RHP Wil Jensen, who gave up just 3 baserunners in 4 scoreless innings, with 3 strikeouts. Jensen is quietly having a really good season, with a 2.40 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, and 70 strikeouts to 25 walks in 63.2 innings. In his last 3 games, he’s given up just 10 baserunners in 10 scoreless innings.

RHP Sam Delaplane got rocked in his first game with Richmond. That happens! Just awesome to see his great story continuing. And recently-promoted RHP Tyler Myrick, who struck out 2 batters in 1.2 innings, gave up his first run at the level. He’s allowed just 8 baserunners in 9.1 Richmond innings, with 10 strikeouts.

High-A Eugene (50-49)

Eugene Emeralds beat the Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels) 3-2
Box score

After back-to-back shutout losses to start the series, Eugene finally found some runs ... and a win! A dramatic one, at that, as the Emeralds scored a pair of runs in the 9th inning to tie and take the lead. Third baseman/catcher Thomas Gavello provided the big hit, a 2-run single with the bases loaded. Gavello finished the day 2-4, as the only Emerald with multiple hits. He’s been slumping since a recent promotion, so nice to see a good game.

Speaking of slumping players with good games, catcher Brett Auerbach (No. 38 CPL) hit 1-3 with a double for the team’s only extra-base hit. Auerbach has unquestionably had one of the more disappointing years in the system, but he’s shown some signs of life lately: in his last 6 games he’s 6-21 with 2 doubles ... albeit with 0 walks and 8 strikeouts. But it’s unfortunately the type of season he’s having that such a stretch stands out as hot.

Not a good game for first baseman Sean Roby, who hit 0-3 with 2 strikeouts, though his 9th inning walk started the game-winning rally. After briefly looking like he’d made improvements on the strikeouts that have sidetracked his career, Roby has been back to his swing-and-miss ways: he’s struck out in 10 consecutive games, and in his last 8 games is 6-29 with 1 home run, 3 doubles, 4 walks, and 15 strikeouts.

9th-inning heroics aside, the excitement was on the mound. And it started with the starter: LHP Reggie Crawford (No. 8 CPL). Crawford was appearing in his 5th game since getting promoted, and pitched multiple innings for the first time since mid-June. It was arguably his best pitching performance, as he gave up just 1 hit and no freebies in his 2 innings, allowing an unearned run (admittedly on his own error), and striking out 3.

There’s no denying that Crawford has overpowering stuff, at least at these lower levels. In 17 innings across Low-A and High-A, he already has 29 strikeouts. There are command and control concerns — he has 9 walks and 2 hit batters in that time — so this outing was great to see. Not only did he avoid free runners, but he pounded the strike zone, with 20 of his 28 pitches being strikes. Needless to say, he’ll be a must-watch prospect next year as he presumably starts to get stretched out.

No word on how much the Giants are letting Crawford hit behind the scenes. He hasn’t hit since donning a Eugene jersey and hasn’t hit at all since June, but that doesn’t mean he’s not working on it outside of games.

After Crawford it was a splendid outing from LHP Hayden Wynja, who struck out 8 batters in 4 scoreless innings, allowing 5 hits and a walk. Thoughts and prayers with the poor Tri-City batters who started the game having to face a high-90s lefty built like a linebacker, and then immediately moved on to a 6’9 southpaw. Not a fun day to be a hitter.

Wynja may be the least-heralded starting pitcher named “Hayden” in the Giants system (although not according to Fangraphs) but my goodness is he having a season. An undrafted free agent a year ago, Wynja is 4 outings into his recent promotion, and in 18 innings has allowed just 14 hits, 8 walks, and 2 runs, with 20 strikeouts. He’s clearly become a starter in the Giants eyes, as he’s pitched at least 4 innings in 11 of his last 12 appearances, including a trio of 5-inning outings in his last 6 games.

And the not-so-great walk numbers? Perhaps just a matter of adjustment. In his first 2 games in Eugene, Wynja had 7 walks and 7 strikeouts in 9 innings. The 2 games since? 1 walk and 13 strikeouts in 9 innings. Hell yeah.

RHP Hunter Dula struck out 2 batters in a perfect inning. Dula had been really good to start the year, posting a 2.35 ERA in April, and a 1.74 ERA in both May and June, but faltered in July, where he had a 6.23 ERA. So very nice to see him start August on the right foot.

Low-A San Jose (56-43)

San Jose Giants beat the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels) 8-2
Box score

After a brief blip, the Baby Giants have gotten back to their winning ways, opening the series with 3 straight wins. Excellent!

Would you believe me if I told you that second baseman Diego Velasquez (No. 42 CPL) had a good game? And would you tell me to shut up already if I reminded you that Velasquez is a 19-year old switch-hitter who plays both sides of second base, who has an .859 OPS and a 136 wRC+, with a really nice walk rate and a really, really nice strikeout rate, plus 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts?

Would you tell me that I remind you of these things 8 days a week and have done so for the last 2 months and I don’t need to keep bringing it up? You would?

OK then. I’ll shut up. But, by the way, Velasquez hit 2-4 with a double, and is now 30-76 with 2 home runs, 1 triple, 9 doubles, 9 walks, and just 10 strikeouts since July 8. I’ll be quiet now.

Designated hitter Andrew Kachel had a day. Well, technically we all had days, but Kachel had a notably good day, hitting 4-5. No extra-base hits, but we’re not here to quibble with 4-hit days. A left-handed hitting 16th-round pick in last year’s draft, Kachel is assimilating to life in A-ball quite nicely, and has an .848 OPS and a 128 wRC+, with a 12.8% walk rate. Since July 16, Kachel — who plays first, second, and third — is 17-45 with 3 home runs, 1 triple, 2 doubles, 8 walks, and 13 strikeouts.

Catcher Onil Perez (No. 44 CPL) had a nice one, hitting 3-5 with a double. Perez was having a breakout season early on, but had some relative struggles in July, which knocked him from “excellent season” to “really good season.” He’s recovering nicely though, and in 10 games since the break is hitting 15-42 with 1 triple, 1 double, 5 walks, and just 5 strikeouts. He has a .799 OPS and a 118 wRC+ on the year ... he may do it unconventionally for his position, but those are awesomely productive numbers for a 20-year old catcher.

Shortstop Jose Ramos hit 2-5 with a triple. His overall numbers have really dipped since his blistering start (.632 OPS, 77 wRC+) but, like Perez, he’s having a post-All-Star-break bump: 20-60 with 1 home run, 2 triples, 3 doubles, 6 walks, and 14 strikeouts.

Another nice outing for RHP Wilkelma Castillo, who pitched 3 scoreless innings, allowing 4 baserunners and striking out 2. Castillo began the year in High-A, was awful, went to the Complex League to work on some things, and is now trying to keep his form in Low-A. So far, so good: in 6 Low-A games, he has a 2.31 ERA, albeit with a 5.01 FIP, and has 12 strikeouts to 6 walks in 11.2 innings.

RHP Cameron Cotter gave up just 2 hits in 3 scoreless innings, with 4 strikeouts. The Giants signed Cotter, who went undrafted last year, in May, and he’s been the best pitcher in the system at limiting free passes: he has 22 strikeouts to just 2 walks in 26.2 innings.

Take this with a massive grain of salt, since Cotter has a small sample size and is a 24 year old in Low-A, but his 0.67 walks per 9 innings are 8th-lowest out of 2,659 Minor League pitchers with at least 20 innings thrown this year.

ACL Orange (20-21)

ACL Giants Orange beat the ACL Cubs 9-3
Box score

Some lovely games, and finally we’ve arrived at some home runs! At long last!

Before we get to the homers though, let’s welcome back center fielder Mauricio Pierre (19 years, 2021 IFA), who made his season debut after being sidelined by injuries. And what a return it was, as he went 2-3 before being lifted.

Pierre is listed as being on Low-A San Jose’s roster, with this being a rehab assignment, though that may just be a logistical thing. Given his young age, and the fact that he had a .590 OPS, a 69 wRC+, and a 34.4% strikeout rate in his ACL debut last year, I’d guess the Giants want to slot him back there for the rest of the year.

Now, onto some nice performances. ‘tis the season for first career home runs, and on Thursday it was third baseman Justin Wishkoski (22 years, 2023 16th-round), who hit 2-3 and opened up the 3rd inning with his first big fly. Congrats, Justin! He’s just 3 games into his career, but is 3-10 and has yet to strike out. Very lovely.

Also homering was designated hitter Derwin Laya (19 years, 2021 IFA), who hit 2-4 on the day, bringing his OPS up to .756 and his wRC+ to 85. On the one hand, those numbers aren’t great. On the other hand, they’re significantly better than last year, in his ACL debut. In a very similar sample size, Laya has seen his batting average jump from .185 to .277, his on-base percentage from .287 to .333, his slugging percentage from .259 to .423, and his stolen bases from 0 to 5, all while his strikeout rate has dropped from 31.2% to 24.8%. The only part of his game that hasn’t gotten better is the walk rate, which has lowered from 12.1% to 5.7%.

A lovely day for shortstop Jean Carlos Sio (19 years, 2022 IFA), who hit 2-2 with a double and 2 walks. Sio has had one of the most quietly excellent seasons in the system. The Giants promoted him to the states after just one DSL season, despite him posting only a .604 OPS and 75 wRC+. But they presumably really liked the plate control and swing decisions, as his walk and strikeout numbers were excellent. That’s remained true in the ACL, but the rest of his game has come around: he has an .819 OPS and a 109 wRC+, with a 13.9% walk rate, and a 15.1% strikeout rate that is 9th-lowest out of 102 Complex League hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.

Also, left fielder Bo Davidson (21 years, 2023 UDFA) continues to be awesome, hitting 1-2 with a walk. He’s 5-8 with 2 extra-base hits and 2 walks since getting passed over at the draft. Right fielder Bryce Eldridge (18 years, 2023 1st-round) hit 0-2 with a walk in his 3rd pro game.

One bit of bad news: first baseman Javier Castillo (19 years, 2021 IFA) left the game after getting hit by a pitch. Hopefully he’s OK.

RHP Chen-Hsun Lee (21 years, 2023 IFA) made his 3rd appearance and struggled a little, allowing 2 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs in 2 innings, with 2 strikeouts. It’s been a slow start for Lee, who received a signing bonus of about $650,000 dollars in this year’s international signing period. But it’s extremely early days.

But an excellent outing for LHP Carlos Molina (18 years, 2023 IFA) who went 5 strong innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and 1 unearned run, while striking out 7. The Giants usually give us a lot of hints about who we should be excited about, so I’m willing to read into the fact that they gave Molina the rare international in-season promotion, especially since it came in his debut season.

His numbers have emphatically backed that up. He has a 3.18 ERA, a 4.24 FIP, and a sensational 24 strikeouts to 4 walks in 17 innings. Amazing!

ACL Black (25-18)

ACL Giants Black lost to the ACL D-backs Red 4-2 (7 innings)
Box score

A few nice games. The biggest hit came from third baseman Elian Rayo (20 years, 2019 IFA), who hit 1-3 with a home run. Rayo is doing a lot of good things this year, with an .844 OPS and a .240 ISO that ranks 6th out of 92 Giants hitters with at least 100 plate appearances this year, behind only Sean Roby, Heliot Ramos, Javier Francisco, Isan Díaz, and Armando Alvarez. Somehow he only has a 103 wRC+ though, which is funny ... the 3 players in the ACL with the closest OPS’ to Rayo have wRC+ marks of 131, 126, and 112. His 32.4% strikeout rate is concerning, but otherwise a delightful season.

Catcher Drew Cavanaugh (21 years, 2023 17th-round) had another lovely game, hitting 1-2 with a double and a hit by pitch. Through 3 career games, he’s 4-8 with a walk and just 2 strikeouts. Speaking of draftees, second baseman Quinn McDaniel (20 years, 2023 5th-round) hit 1-3 with a double and a walk. His pro career is off to a slower start than many of the team’s draftees (he’s 2-13), but not to worry. Plus, he’s drawn 4 walks in 5 games.

A so-so game for RHP Ubert Mejias (22 years, 2023 IFA), who pitched 5 innings with 0 walks and 4 strikeouts, but allowed 9 hits, 3 runs, and 2 earned runs. Still feels like a very successful debut season for Mejias, who received a $200,000 signing bonus after defecting from Cuba: he has a 2.98 ERA, a 4.92 FIP, and 42 strikeouts to 15 walks in 48.1 innings. There’s a lot of excitement in that arm!

DSL Orange (22-19)

DSL Giants Orange lost to the DSL Angels 4-3 (10 innings)
Box score

I think it is very safe to say that LHP Jose Rengel (17 years, 2023 IFA) is endearing himself to the organization. Rengel’s season got off to a slow start, as one would expect for a 17-year old pitcher in their debut season.

But it seems that he is figuring it out. In his last outing, Rengel was the primary pitcher in the Giants Orange’s no-hitter, allowing just 1 walk in 5 scoreless innings. You can’t really do better than that, right?

Wrong! Rengel did do better than that his next time out, because on Thursday he took it a step further, dishing 5 perfect innings. He only recorded 2 strikeouts, but who cares? Back-to-back no-hit 5-inning outings? Amazing.

The biggest thing you want out of a debuting player, in my opinion, is progress. You want to feel by the end of the year that they are growing and improving and in line to take another step at another level next year. So check out Rengel’s splits in his first pro season:

First 6 games: 19.2 innings, 21 hits, 10 walks, 2 hit batters, 18 runs, 21 strikeouts
Last 3 games: 15 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 0 hit batters, 1 run, 11 strikeouts

Amazing stuff.

Not much on offense, but another lovely day from designated hitter Lisbel Diaz (18 years, 2023 IFA), who hit 2-4 and drew a walk. A 6’2 righty slugger who plays all over the outfield, Diaz is just 12 games into his career, but he’s 17-40 with 2 home runs, 4 walks, and just 4 strikeouts. How awesome.

DSL Black (20-22)

DSL Giants Black lost to the DSL Mariners 6-5
Box score

A scheduled 7-inning game, this one turned into a conventional 9-inning game due to extra innings. Baseball gods and goddesses trying to correct the atrocities that are 7-inning games, if you ask me.

Fantastic offensive games from the team’s pair of All-Stars, as catcher Anyelo Gonzalez (18 years, 2023 IFA) hit 2-4 with a pair of doubles, while right fielder Moisés de la Rosa (18 years, 2022 IFA) hit 1-3 with a home run. Gonzalez, a left-handed hitting backstop, has an .854 OPS and a 126 wRC+ in his debut season, while posting a very low 16.5% strikeout rate. de la Rosa, who debuted last year but was limited to just 19 games, is up to an .887 OPS and a 137 wRC+, with quality numbers in every area of the game ... he looks primed for an exciting stateside debut next year.

Center fielder Carlos Gutierrez (18 years, 2023 IFA) also had a very nice game, hitting 2-4 and stealing a base. A speedy left-handed hitter, Gutierrez got a late start (his debut was exactly a month ago), but his numbers are absolutely absurd: 23-59 with 2 triples, 3 doubles, 10 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 10 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Sure, the Giants will want to see more power eventually, but for a player to be 17 games into their career and have just 3 strikeouts, while being 10-for-10 swiping bags is freaking awesome.

LHP Luis De La Torre (19 years, 2023 IFA), a late signing, made his pro debut and struck out a batter in a perfect inning. Nice! And RHP Carlos Gomez (18 years, 2022 IFA) struck out 4 batters in 2 innings, allowing 2 hits and a run. After a rough debut season, Gomez has settled into a 2.49 ERA this year, with 26 strikeouts to 10 walks in 21.2 innings.

Home runs

ACL Elian Rayo (7)
ACL Derwin Laya (5)
ACL Justin Wishkoski (1)
DSL Moisés de la Rosa (3)

Friday schedule

Sacramento: vs. the Reno Aces, 6:45 p.m. PT
Richmond: @ the Altoona Curve, 3:00 p.m. PT
Eugene: @ the Tri-City Dust Devils, 7:05 p.m. PT
San Jose: @ the Inland Empire 66ers, 6:35 p.m. PT

Reminder that all Minor League games can now be watched on MLB TV.

Video round up

Here are some videos from recent games that published too late to be in the articles.